For better use: On MPLADS funds
GS Paper I
Topic: Indian constitution and governance
Mains: Pros and Cons of suspending MPLADS scheme for 2 years
What’s the News?
The Recent suspension of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years to boost the funding available for the COVID-19 fight is being criticized as it may undermine the decentralised manner of funding local area development.
- The MPLAD and MLALAD scheme was introduced in December 1993 by former Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao to enable legislators to execute small works of a local nature to meet the urgent needs of their constituents.
- Under the scheme, each legislator may identify projects and sanction upto Rs 2 crore per year for public works in their constituencies. The scheme was mooted after MPs demanded that they should be able to recommend certain development projects in their constituencies.
- The projects include assets building such as drinking water facilities, primary education, public health sanitation and roads. The initial amount allocated was Rs 5 lakh per year to each MP.
Positives of MPLAD scheme:
- The immediate benefit is the freeing up of about ₹7,900 crore over a two-year period so that it can be spent on boosting the health infrastructure needed to combat the pandemic..
- Political reactions indicate that there is considerable disenchantment over the suspension — the ₹5-crore corpus available to each member is a source of much goodwill for elected representatives.
- Better performing MPs identify and fulfil local development needs with empathy and alacrity.
Negatives of the MPLAD scheme:
- Flawed nature of the scheme- A conceptual flaw pointed out by experts is that it goes against the separation of powers. It allows individual legislators to encroach on the planning and implementation duties of the administration.
- Against the spirit of the constitution– Jurists have pointed out that the Constitution does not confer the power to spend public money on an individual legislator. Experts have called it out for weak monitoring.
- Past experience has been that some members do not utilise their full entitlement and that there is a gap between recommendation made by members and implementation by the administration under this scheme.
Supreme courts’ stand:
- The Supreme Court, while declining to strike down the scheme, called for a robust accountability regime.
- MPLADS gives scope for MPs to utilise the funds as a source of patronage that they can dispense at will.
The CAG has flagged instances of financial mismanagement and inflation of amounts spent.
The Second Administrative Reforms Commission:
- It recommended its abrogation altogether, highlighting the problems of the legislator stepping into the shoes of the executive.
- The current suspension gives some scope for a reconsideration of the scheme in its totality.
- The suspension of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years to boost the funding available for the COVID-19 fight is a step in the right direction.
- While the transfer of these sums to the Consolidated Fund of India would help judicious deployment anywhere in the country, based on an assessment of the varying needs in different regions.
- It would redound to the government’s credit if the genuine efforts made by members to help their constituents are not frustrated. It should also see to it that allocations are non-discriminatory.